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Malaysia 20 January 2003

Police raid offices of news website

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) protested at a police raid today on the offices of the news website, Malaysia’s chief source of independent news, seizing about 20 computers and partially blocking access to the website after it published criticism of the government.

The press freedom organisation called on home affairs minister Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi, who is also deputy prime minister, to see the equipment was returned at once and to drop all charges against the website’s owner, Steve Gan. Access to the blocked part of site containing the criticism, in the form of a letter, was restored later in the day.

Gan, who said the raid was an attempt to close it down, has been summoned by police to appear on 22 May to answer a complaint against the site for "sedition" and "inciting racial hatred."

The anonymous letter, posted on the site on 9 January, criticised the government’s granting of special rights to the country’s ethnic Malay majority and compared the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) to the racist US Ku Klux Klan. Police demanded to know who had written the letter but Gan refused to say, as a matter of journalistic principle., which started up in November 1999, gets 100,000 visitors a day and has won international prizes for its news coverage of a country where the media are controlled by government associates and subjected to very strict laws.

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